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Reviews for movies opening in Oklahoma this week

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Zach Galifianakis provides the voice of a literate, English-speaking Sasquatch who believes he is the last of his kind in writer/director Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated film, “Missing Link.” [Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures photo]
Zach Galifianakis provides the voice of a literate, English-speaking Sasquatch who believes he is the last of his kind in writer/director Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated film, “Missing Link.” [Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures photo]

A look at the films opening in Oklahoma this week.

'Missing Link'

PG 1:35 2 ½ out of 4 stars

Despite a delightfully dry British sense of humor, smashing voiceover performances and gorgeously textured visuals, the “Missing Link” proves the weakest of its family tree.

“Missing Link” is the fifth feature film from Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio that created “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “The Boxtrolls,” “ParaNorman” and “Coraline.”

The new animated adventure follows Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a monster hunter searching for mythical creatures, not to kill or capture them but to simply document their existence. His ultimate goal is to gain admission to London’s Optimates Club, an exclusive explorers' group run by his pompous rival Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry).

After a thrilling opening in which Sir Lionel tracks the Loch Ness Monster, he follows a mysterious letter to the U.S. Pacific Northwest in search of the Sasquatch. Sir Lionel finds the towering, furry creature(Zach Galifianakis), but also finds out that Bigfoot's a literate lonely heart who wants the adventurer to escort him halfway across the world to the fabled Shangri-La, believed to be the home of his cold-weathered cousins the Yeti.

But Sir Lionel must first procure a map his late partner created to the legendary land, and that means dealing with his friend’s widow, the fiery free-spirit Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana). He also has to cope with an underhanded bounty hunter (Timothy Olyphant) that Lord Piggot-Dunceby has hired to get rid of him.

“ParaNorman” writer/director Chris Butler creates the most colorful and preschooler-friendly Laika film to date. But he and his team are too thorough in sanding off the narrative’s eccentric edges and smoothing out the stop-motion animation’s literal fingerprints. Even with the brief 95-minute runtime, the story bogs down in the middle, and one thing a movie about a bookwormish Sasquatch named Susan should probably never get is a little boring.

— Brandy McDonnell, The Oklahoman

'Diane'

Unrated 1:35 3 out of 4 stars

Kent Jones is a respected, even revered, figure in film circles, as a programmer for the New York Film Festival and as the writer-director of such documentaries as "A Letter to Elia" and "Hitchcock/Truffaut."

Jones makes a promising feature debut with "Diane," a naturalistic portrait of service and self-sacrifice by way of a quietly astonishing title performance by Mary Kay Place, a Tulsa native. Based in large part on the women who surrounded Jones during his childhood in western Massachusetts, "Diane" centers on a widow and mother who is in near-constant motion doing for others, whether it's visiting her fatally ill cousin in the hospital, dropping off food for a laid-up neighbor, doling out macaroni and cheese at her church's soup kitchen or, in the film's rawest moments, letting herself into the apartment of her son, Brian (Jake Lacy), to make sure he hasn't relapsed back into drug addiction.

Filmed with stealth and delicacy, "Diane" never takes lurid advantage of the obstacles facing its sturdy, stoic heroine. Impassive under a mousy brown wig, Place avoids playing the martyr, instead infusing her character with disarming common sense, even when she succumbs to bouts of self-pity (and a few too many margaritas). But in time, something of a mystery begins to develop, suggesting that Diane is driven by penance as much as an innate sense of altruism. What starts out as a Bressonian study in simplicity takes on the thornier contours of Kenneth Lonergan's exercises in subtext and misdirection.

Interestingly, like Lonergan's debut "You Can Count on Me," Jones's "Diane" was executive produced by Martin Scorsese — an impressive vote of confidence from a far more splashy, self-consciously expressive artist. Attuned to the rhythms of a very specific swath of semirural life in the post-Rust Belt Northeast, with its unremarkable restaurants, aging houses and cramped, crowded kitchens, Jones understands how people fill their days and look out for one another. He also displays an uncanny sense of how time works, zooming past entire years with no warning, much like years tend to do.

Those shifts might alienate some viewers, as will a story that is almost adamant in its downbeat allegiance to realism. But as sad as "Diane" often is, it also offers its own hard-won optimism. For the religiously observant, "Diane" might be the perfect Lent movie: Although we never see the title character attend church, she offers a radiant if self-effacing example of evangelism, not as proselytizing but as faith in action.

What's more, Jones' compositions — often dominated by circles of women gathering around people in various forms of transition — pays tribute to the people who do so much of the invisible, unsung work of holding families together and, when necessary, letting them go. Thanks to Place's down-to-earth, unaffected performance and the filmmaker's own sensitivity, "Diane" grows in scope and sensibility, taking on the epic dimensions of time and the unbreakable ties that bind. In hewing so closely to life — in all its frailty and fellowship, its perseverance and mutual care — Jones has made something larger than life.

This film is only showing at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

— Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

'Little'

PG-13 1:49 One out of 4 stars

In "Little," an obnoxious Atlanta tech entrepreneur faces two dilemmas: She's just been transformed back into her 13-year-old self, and she has to pitch a new product to her biggest client or lose all his business.

This inversion of 1988's "Big" fails to make either quandary interesting, let alone amusing. The movie is so flimsy that people might wonder how it could possibly have been made.

It can't have been the quality of the script, which is credited to Tracy Oliver and director Tina Gordon and hardly qualifies as a first draft. It must have been the premise and the casting, which makes "Girls Trip's" Regina Hall the grown-up Jordan Sanders, and "Blackish's" Marsai Martin the teenage version (a bigger role). The movie's most valuable player, however, is "Insecure's" Issa Rae. She plays Jordan's much-abused assistant, who's forced to pose as her boss' aunt after a spell cast by a pipsqueak magician forces Jordan to relive her teenage torments.

That's where the story begins, during Jordan's first season in junior-high hell. The movie then jumps to the 38-year-old Jordan, who is rich, arrogant and friendless. Her top client (Mikey Day) gives her an ultimatum, just before a confrontation at a doughnut truck — Jordan is portrayed as joylessly anti-carb - causes a wand-wielding girl to do some voodoo.

Soon a child protective services agent (Rachel Dratch) arrives to insist that little Jordan go to school. She ends up, of course, at the same place she hated 25 years ago. While April tries to run the company, Jordan finds herself exiled to the nerds' table in the cafeteria.

That's barely enough material for 60-minute movie. "Little" lasts nearly twice that long, in part because it's so sluggishly paced. Rather than develop the characters or the situation, the filmmakers pad the movie with hot guys and multiple scenes where the characters break into song and dance. Jordan's sort-of-boyfriend (Luke James) begins a stripper routine every time he enters her apartment, and 13-year-old Jordan has a hunky new teacher (Justin Hartley). The movie attempts to draw embarrassed giggles by having Jordan do grown-up things while in her barely teenage body, including coming on to guys three times her age and warbling a Mary J. Blige song atop a restaurant bar while sloshed on wine.

Like most Hollywood movies that pretend to question the values of the filthy rich, "Little" implicitly endorses them. It glories in Jordan's lavish apartment, expensive sports car and vast array of designer clothing. When the 13-year-old mogul decides to help the junior-high nerds, the first thing she does is outfit them from her closets full of fancy togs. Should any girl be forced to relive middle school, "Little" suggests, she should at least do so with a platinum card.

— Mark Jenkins, Special To The Washington Post

'Hellboy'

R 2:01 1 ½ out of 4 stars

Sometimes "more adult" does not mean "more mature." That's the central problem facing "Hellboy," the reboot of the comic book character popularized in films by Guillermo del Toro.

The original 2004 movie and its 2008 sequel were PG-13 affairs, with a focus on the demonic antihero's lovable streak. Under the direction of Neil Marshall, a filmmaker with his own horror/fantasy bona fides, this Hellboy curses, eviscerates, flays and disembowels. Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby went overboard with their R-rating, introducing so much gore and profanity that it, quite frankly, gets dull. The flat performances and incoherent story do not help matters.

Created by Mike Mignola in 1993, Hellboy is a literal demon from hell who lives on Earth. As part of a paranormal government agency, he fights for the good guys, keeping other monsters from wreaking havoc. Ron Perlman played Hellboy in the del Toro films, and here David Harbour — best known as Chief Hopper from Netflix's "Stranger Things" — takes over. The two actors look similar in their heavy makeup, complete with red skin and devil horns filed down to stumps, and they have similar evil plots to overturn.

This time Hellboy faces off against the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a witch who wants revenge on mankind. Along his quest to defeat her, Hellboy uncovers a secret from his past (of course he does). Cosby hardly wavers from the typical comic book formula, right down to cheesy jokes and a final showdown.

Marshall is best known for directing the horror thriller "The Descent" and two memorable, battle-filled "Game of Thrones" episodes, so he clearly knows how to evoke epic scale on a limited budget. "Hellboy" hints at that sense of spectacle, like when he fights three famished giants in an open field. The characters move and clash with plausible heft, and there is an affable slapstick quality to the fight, even if it ends gruesomely. But for each imaginative sequence, there is a repetitive scene with little sense of imagination or surprise.

At one point, Hellboy and his colleagues must fight zombies bursting out of the ground. The actors seem to realize this scene is just filler, so any potential energy or excitement is lost. There are some throwaway gross-out moments, such as when gigantic demons lay siege to London and a point-legged one impales several innocent bystanders like a kebab. But the funny thing about overabundant gore is that it loses its potential for shock when viscera is more common than anything suspenseful.

One way to overcome a dearth of memorable action is through memorable characters, but the film also fails on that front. As a literal demon on Earth, Hellboy is torn between humanity and the underworld, and Harbour cannot sell that anxiety. His dramatic scenes fall curiously flat, and his comic one-liners inspire little more than stony silence. Unsurprisingly, the only actor who elevates the material is Ian McShane, who plays Hellboy's adoptive father. His droll delivery suggests he is the only actor with any self-awareness, although he plays a similar character in the "John Wick" films with more wicked fun.

If anything, "Hellboy" is a testament to del Toro's talents as a filmmaker. Through evocative creatures and production design, he created a more inventive world than what we typically see from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or its DC equivalent. There is a moment in this new film when Hellboy regrows his horns, wielding a fiery sword as he rides a huge beast and vanquishes the damned on hell's surface. If a film's best attempt at over-the-top imagery inspires little more than a halfhearted shrug, something has gone terribly wrong.

— Alan Zilberman, Special To The Washington Post

'After'

PG-13 1:46 Not reviewed

'Mia and the White Lion'

PG 1:38 Not reviewed

'3 Faces'

Not rated 1:40 Not reviewed

Showing Sunday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Related Photos
Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris ButlerþÄôs MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release.  Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures

Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris ButlerþÄôs MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e1dce54625637fbb5a6ccafa2e4f84ba.jpg" alt="Photo - Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris ButlerþÄôs MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures " title="Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris ButlerþÄôs MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures "><figcaption>Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris ButlerþÄôs MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0e3103ebe5f9ddbe4b114c6161e138f8.jpg" alt="Photo - Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in "Little." [Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures] " title=" Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in "Little." [Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures] "><figcaption> Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in "Little." [Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-437fb2764edf0d37e8aa6054f81836df.jpg" alt="Photo - David Harbour plays the titular character in "Hellboy," based on the comic book character created by Mike Mignola. [Mark Rogers/Lionsgate] " title=" David Harbour plays the titular character in "Hellboy," based on the comic book character created by Mike Mignola. [Mark Rogers/Lionsgate] "><figcaption> David Harbour plays the titular character in "Hellboy," based on the comic book character created by Mike Mignola. [Mark Rogers/Lionsgate] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6ebaf7beaebe502884dc3dd20bb35277.jpg" alt="Photo - Zach Galifianakis provides the voice of a literate, English-speaking Sasquatch who believes he is the last of his kind in writer/director Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated film, “Missing Link.” [Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures photo] " title=" Zach Galifianakis provides the voice of a literate, English-speaking Sasquatch who believes he is the last of his kind in writer/director Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated film, “Missing Link.” [Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures photo] "><figcaption> Zach Galifianakis provides the voice of a literate, English-speaking Sasquatch who believes he is the last of his kind in writer/director Chris Butler’s stop-motion animated film, “Missing Link.” [Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures photo] </figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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